Attorney General, Basil Williams yesterday launched a scathing attack on Deputy Solicitor General, Prithima Kissoon following a disclosure that she had complained to the Public Service Commission (PSC) about him in an escalating row that has also drawn in Solicitor General Sita Ramlal.
The controversy revolves around the State’s handling of a case in which former President Bharrat Jagdeo had been accused of racially inflammatory language. The appeal brought by the state against a decision by the High Court that the magistrate had no jurisdiction was thrown out by the Guyana Court of Appeal this month as an abuse of the court’s process. This result has seen the AG accusing Kissoon of responsibility for this which she has denied and she has issued her own accusations against the AG.
In his statement yesterday, Williams said “Our government can no longer continue to sustain the Deputy Solicitor General Ms. Prithima Kissoon’s unrelenting undermining of its cases. Having been employed by former Attorney General Mr. Anil Nandlall under the PPP/C regime, as Deputy Solicitor General, and paid over one million dollars ($1,000,000) and other benefits per month, Ms. Kissoon has been openly supportive of Mr. Nandlall and the PPP/C even when seated on government’s bench.
“In every case involving now Opposition Leader Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo and the PPP/C’s surrogates, and where Mr. Nandlall is the opposing counsel, and Ms. Kissoon appears for the AG Chambers, glaring errors have been made by Ms. Kissoon.
“In cases where His Excellency The President, The Hon. Prime Minister and the Attorney General were sued, Ms. Kissoon deliberately disobeyed the instructions of the Attorney General and Solicitor General with regard to challenging the applications on lack of jurisdiction, thereby causing the matters to be protracted, effectively aiding Mr. Nandlall in saving face”.
The AG said that last week prior to his departure from Guyana for a Council of Legal Education meeting in Jamaica, he instructed the Permanent Secretary of the Attorney General Chambers/Ministry of Legal Affairs to inform the PSC of the Chambers’ intention to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Kissoon, and to enquire of the PSC’s procedures pertaining to same.
He charged that Kissoon was attempting to cloud the facts of a situation where there are numerous memoranda issued to her for numerous infractions. He said that on his return to Guyana he shall reveal, in greater detail, “Ms. Kissoon’s hatred of the change in government.”
For her part, Kissoon had denied Williams’ version of the trajectory of the case before the Guyana Court of Appeal. In undated correspondence to the PSC, Kissoon accused the AG of failing to give instructions or examining documents prepared by her prior to being filed or presented to the court.
“The Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, has failed to approve or sign written submissions prepared by me or examine pleadings despite those documents being sent to him via email or being given to his Confidential Secretary, Ms. Demi Hipplewith, Ms. Andrea Marks and other assistants he has retained over the past year.
“Moreover, the Attorney General, has instructed Ms. Demi Hipplewith and his other assistants to refuse to accept any documents or correspondences from me, and as a result, I have had to resort to registering or express mailing him my correspondences and at all times emailing him and carbon copying relevant recipients”, Kissoon stated in the letter to the PSC.
In relation to the Jagdeo case and referring to a report in the Guyana Chronicle of January 19th, 2017, Kissoon said that the AG wrongly and unlawfully stated that she and the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Carl Singh conspired to aid Jagdeo.
Kissoon said that the AG though notified of a motion filed by Jagdeo’s lawyer Murseline Bacchus which required an Affidavit in Answer to be filed by him did not act on this even though she prepared a draft affidavit for him to peruse. She said that she had records to show her notifications and reminders to him. In the meanwhile, she said that several adjournments were granted to the state in the matter.
“The AG appeared in Court whilst I was on sick leave and applied to the Court for leave to file further submissions which he did not do. On the date of the ruling he did not appear in Court but sent Ms. (Judy) Stuart, my subordinate, for the first time to take the decision which was duly made by the Court dismissing the appeal as the wrong party was the Appellant and not (Magistrate) Ms. (Charlyn) Artiga”, she said.
She added that this matter caused the AG to abuse, vilify and libel her in the press.
“I resumed duties on the 23rd January, 2017, with the intention of reporting directly to the AG. I discovered that he was at a meeting so I went to my office and cleared it of accumulated documents. Legal Officers came to my room to discuss cases touching and concerning cases in Court. Lo and behold, at 1.30 pm I received a memorandum from the Permanent Secretary directed by the AG of my insubordination for not reporting promptly my resumption to work. I answered the memo …I went to AG’s office to meet with him .. and waited for over an hour but he was still not available.
“In the said memo I was directed through the PS at the AG’s instance to cease conduct of all court matters involving the AG Chambers until further notice … On the 23rd of January, 2017, I received a further memo questioning my conduct as to the non filing of the Affidavit in answer in the case of AG v BJ (Bharrat Jagdeo) That memo was duly answered…”, she wrote in her letter to the PSC.
She added “that on the 24th Jan, 2017, in pursuance of AG further humiliating me and seeking to find a reason lawful or unlawful to oust me from my post he sent members of his Admin staff to record from my office all the cases that are contained therein, whatsoever that means I don’t know for I deal only in court cases, for which all pleadings and documents are a matter of public record, having been filed.
“This course of action employed by him during the last year have been recorded in various memos sent to me by him, with replies”.
She stated that “In the prevailing circumstances, the AG has ensured that I am prohibited and restrained from performing my functions
“Commissioners (of the PSC), I respectfully wish to inform you that the course of conduct administered unlawfully by the AG personally upon me are reprehensible, unbearable and malicious, initiated and executed by the AG, Basil Williams SC, so that I leave the office which I consider through the opinion of my lawyers as constructive dismissal”.
She therefore applied for deferred leave and sought direction from the PSC on the way forward.
In a letter to Kaieteur News in reply to a news item yesterday, Solicitor General Ramlal stated that she did not prepare or approve the appeal in the Jagdeo case as had been reported by the newspaper. She also said that she had not resigned but had proceeded on pre-retirement leave.
She further went on to say that despite her advice to Williams that he could not properly be a party to the proceedings – the ground on which the court made its decision on the abuse of process – he was adamant that she sign the appeal and proceed with it.
Ramlal stated: “Firstly, contrary to what was reported, I did not prepare nor approve the Appeal in this matter. The Deputy Solicitor General Ms. Prithima Kissoon at all material times and at all stages had conduct of the matter and she was aware that an Appeal was being prepared. When the Appeal was to be filed Ms. Kissoon could not be found to affix her signature to same. The pleadings were brought to me for signature, whereupon I declined to sign same.
I then went to the Honourable Attorney General and advised that he could not be a party to the action for the very same reasons stated by Mr. Murseline Bacchus in his letter published in the January 24, 2017, edition of the Stabroek News newspaper, BUT the Honourable Attorney General was adamant and instructed me to sign and file the Appeal. This was done. However, I again brought the issue to the attention of the Honourable Attorney General at a general staff meeting in the presence of the staff of Litigation Department including Ms. Kissoon. After discussions Ms. Kissoon agreed that she would apply for an extension of time to amend the rubric of the Appeal.
“Secondly, I did not resign from the Office of the Solicitor General. I sought and was given approval to proceed on pre-retirement leave”.